Performer: Eric Clapton
Songwriters: Jack Bruce, Pete Brown
Original Release: Wheels of Fire (Cream)
Definitive Version: Live Aid, 1985
Although we weren’t in Texas to watch TV, one of the highlights of the trip that Jin, Scott and I took in July 1985 to visit Mom’s family in Houston involved watching TV—or at least recording it—all day. The reason for that was simple: We were in Houston the day of Live Aid.
I remember being excited about Live Aid with each passing announcement of the latest act to join the bill. The Who were going to get back together to play after a gap of three years, and even Led Zeppelin, or, rather, the remaining members of Led Zeppelin were rumored to get together. Well, I’d believe that one only when I saw it.
But … we were in Texas. It would be rude to spend the whole day watching TV when we were supposed to be visiting, but Jack and Linda’s kids, Jenny and Amy, wanted to watch as much as we did.
So we comprised: When there wasn’t anything going on, we would watch; and when there was, we would tape. You can tell when is when if you watch the videos now, because when we let it run, we had the seemingly endless repeats of promos featuring Sally Field encouraging viewers to help. Otherwise it was skipped. If only we had TiVo back then.
Actually watching TV in Houston in July isn’t necessarily a slacker’s task. It got so hot and humid so early that by 9 in the morning, you really should be inside.
For example, one day to help out—I don’t think it was the same day—I mowed the lawn. I went out to start my task at 8 a.m. In Ohio, if you cut the grass at 8 in the morning, you had to deal with ticked-off neighbors possibly calling the police. In Houston, you were already late to the game. No one wanted to be working in his or her lawn by, say, 10.
Scott, who was in charge of taping, bought three 6-hour tapes and dutifully got up at 6 a.m. to start the VCR in the living room in time to get Status Quo opening the event. As soon as I was up, I was watching, although I can’t remember the first act I saw. I kind of remember it being The Four Tops. (I slept late those days.)
I definitely remember, though, that that morning, Amy had a swimming club meet at a pool not too far from where Jack and Linda lived. Two things stood out about that: Amy’s team—she swam a relay and I think an individual breaststroke event—won, and the PA had the Live Aid broadcast playing in between events. Really, you couldn’t escape it that day.
Back home, we roared through all the biggies that came on in the afternoon—U2, Dire Straits, Queen, CSN, The Beach Boys, David Bowie, Santana, The Who—without a pause.
We could have stayed home all day and night, but the adults were getting restless. Watching a little TV goes a long way—a lot of TV is a different matter.
At dinnertime, they gathered us up and took us to a restaurant they wanted to go with some friends. In case you were wondering, the bar had the TV tuned to Live Aid. At one point, I went to the bathroom, and I could see on the bar TV that Phil Collins was on stage with Eric Clapton as promised. He had made his intercontinental jaunt, and they were playing this song as I later learned.
I started to panic, because supposedly Led Zeppelin was going to be next (with Collins on second drums), and we were going to miss it, unless we left really soon. Good fortune was with me that day, because only a few minutes went by before we headed out, and when we left, the TV had on a commercial—Sally Field, of course.
We got home and flipped on the TV as Collins finished up his solo set and brought Zeppelin on stage. It was happening after all! OK, I said, they’ll play Whole Lotta Love, Rock and Roll and Stairway. I was wrong, of course. They played Rock and Roll, Whole Lotta Love and Stairway.
The adults let us watch Led Zeppelin and even the brief and completely impromptu CSNY reunion that followed, but finally they had enough: We were booted upstairs where we could watch—but not tape—the rest of day’s events. They wanted to relax with a movie before bedtime. We were able to at least tape the finale with Bob Dylan. Jin’s still bummed that we weren’t able to record Duran Duran that day.
It had been quite a day, as Robert Plant said in between songs, and I can’t remember the last time I planned a full day around watching TV—maybe Dec. 31, 1999, although that was a bit different. But I regret nothing. It was for a good cause—my generation’s Woodstock, And I cling to that sentiment despite many gigantic festivals, concerts and even a couple Woodstocks themselves that have happened since.